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10,000-year-old house uncovered outside of Jerusalem

10,000-year-old house uncovered outside of Jerusalem

Digging History

Published November 26, 2013

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    Work being conducted at the excavation. (YOLI SHWARZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    An aerial view of the large excavation along Highway 38. (SKY VIEW COMPANY/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    The standing stone (mazzevÄ) which is worked on all of its sides. Evidence of cultic activity in the Chalcolithic period. (ZINOBI MOSKOWITZ/ISRAEL ANTQIUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    A 10,000 year old house, the oldest dwelling to be unearthed to date in the Judean Shephelah. (DR. YAÂAKOV VARDI/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    A Chalcolithic period building and the standing stone (mazzevÄ) positioned at the end of it. (ASSAF PERETZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

An archaeological excavation near Jerusalem has revealed a 10-millennia-old house and a 6,000-year-old cultic temple — discoveries that experts called “a fascinating glimpse into thousands of years of human development,” and evidence of man’s transition to permanent dwellings.

The ancient structures were found at the site of a planned expansion the main access road to Israeli city Beit Shemesh, called Route 38. The house is the oldest building ever found in the area and dates back to the time of the earliest known domestication of plants and animals.

‘Up until this period man migrated from place to place in search of food.’

– Excavation directors with the IAA

“We uncovered a multitude of unique finds during the excavation,” said Amir Golani, one of the excavators for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). “The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages.”

The oldest artifacts found are of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (approximately 10,000 years ago). According to the excavation directors, “whoever built the house did something that was totally innovative because up until this period man migrated from place to place in search of food.”

Golani explained that the find gave archaeologists a window onto a period 5,000 years ago in the Early Bronze Age, when a rural society made the transition into an urban society.

They “can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement’s leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlement and allowed less planning along its periphery.”

Also among the finds were multiple structures from from the end of the Chalcolithic period (the Copper Age) some 6,000 years ago. Archaeologists found a six-sided stone column standing 51 inches high and weighing several hundred pounds.

“The standing stone was smoothed and worked on all six of its sides, and was erected with one of its sides facing east,” the excavator directors said in a press release. “This unique find alludes to the presence of a cultic temple at the site.”

A group of nine flint and limestones axes were also discovered laying side by side near the prehistoric building. “It is apparent that the axes, some of which were used as tools and some as cultic objects, were highly valued by their owners. Just as today we are unable to get along without a cellular telephone and a computer, they too attributed great importance to their tools,” the researchers concluded.

“It is fascinating to see how in such an ancient period a planned settlement was established in which there is orderly construction, and trace the development of the society which became increasingly hierarchical,” said Golani.

The IAA and Netivei Israel Company will open the excavation to the visiting public this Wednesday, November 27.

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10,000 objects from Roman London Found

Archaeologists find 10,000 objects from Roman London

Discoveries include writing tablets, thousands of pieces of pottery and a large collection of phallus-shaped luck charms.

Roman artifacts

A fragment of a ceramic beaker unearthed at the London construction site. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Scores of archaeologists working in a waterlogged trench through the wettest summer and coldest winter in living memory have recovered more than 10,000 objects from Roman London, including writing tablets, amber, a well with ritual deposits of pewter, coins and cow skulls, thousands of pieces of pottery, a unique piece of padded and stitched leather – and the largest collection of lucky charms in the shape of phalluses ever found on a single site.

Sophie Jackson, of Museum of London Archaeology, said: “The waterlogged conditions left by the Walbrook stream have given us layer upon layer of Roman timber buildings, fences and yards, all beautifully preserved and containing amazing personal items, clothes and even documents – all of which will transform our understanding of the people of Roman London.”

The horrible working conditions, in a sodden trench up to 7 metres deep along the buried river, resulted in startling preservation of timber – including massive foundations for buildings, fencing still standing to shoulder height, and remains of a complex Roman drainage system, as well as the largest collection of leather from any London Roman site, bone and even a straw basket, which would all have crumbled into dust centuries ago on a drier site.

The most puzzling object is an elaborately worked piece of leather, padded and stitched with an image of a gladiator fighting mythical creatures. The archaeologists believe it may have come from a chariot, but are only guessing since nothing like it has ever been found.

Other finds include an amber charm in the shape of a gladiator’s helmet, which may have been a good luck charm for an actual gladiator; a horse harness ornament combining two lucky symbols, a fist and a phallus, plus clappers to make a jingling sound as the horse moved; and a set of fine-quality pewter bowls and cups, which were deliberately thrown into a deep well.

The site at Queen Victoria Street was at the heart of the Roman city of London. It is now being redeveloped as a new headquarters for Bloomberg designed by Lord Foster, but after the second world war, when Victorian buildings were cleared for an office block, it became internationally famous when a buried Temple of Mithras was found.Crowds queued around the block to see the remains, which were preserved after a public outcry led to questions in parliament over the threat of their destruction. The temple was reconstructed on top of a car park, but as part of the present project is being moved back to its original site, where it and many of the finds will eventually be on display to the public.

Up to 60 archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology worked on the site, digging by hand through 3,500 tonnes of soil. The site, which includes the longest surviving stretch of the Walbrook, covers the entire period of Roman London, from very soon after the invasion to the 5th century.

• This article was amended on 10 April 2013. The original said the archaeological site was at Great Queen Street. That has been corrected to Queen Victoria Street. The original also misspelled Walbrook as Wallbrook.

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